Monday, July 9, 2018

Cutting Cable

Hard to believe a full year has passed since I last called Charter Spectrum to cancel our cable service. Each time the promo period ends and our rates go up I have to call to get put on another promotional rate. I'm sure many of you know that drill. Last year they initially said there were no promotions available for us so I talked it over with the wife and we decided to really cancel. That's when they offered us a better deal than any before: $75/month for internet, local channels, and 10 cable channels. Of course fees kicked that number up a bit, and those fees increased throughout the year so we were eventually paying almost $90/month.

Part of our promotional rate ended this month kicking our bill up to almost $100/month, so I called like normal but this time they didn't offer any new promotions. They simply asked why I wanted to cancel and when I told them it was just too much money they went ahead and accepted my cancellation request. I wasn't expecting that but I'm glad they did because it feels like the right time. We hadn't really been watching anything on cable for the past several weeks except for having shows on in the background like Futurama reruns or whatever. I liked having that but it's so not worth $30+/month. When we do have time to watch TV again we'll go to Amazon Prime streaming and the various networks apps, and if we run out of content there maybe we'll get Netflix for $11/month.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

New Serpentine Belt

I put a new serpentine belt in my car yesterday. I didn't have the correct tool I needed, a 19mm torque socket wrench, but thanks to I found a nearby neighbor who let me borrow one. This was my first time changing a serpentine belt and it went a lot easier than I was expecting, taking less than half an hour. Once I was done I started up my car and there was no more squealing!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Closing of Kmart and Sears

Our local Kmart and Sears stores are both closing, which is kind of sad. They weren't the best stores in the world... or in the town... but I enjoyed getting free and heavily discounted stuff with the Shop Your Way program. I would usually play their sweeps games in the evening while watching TV and end up with about $10-$15 every couple weeks, enough to purchase various household necessities. Sometimes they would offer Surprise Points, which they now call Free Cash, that would get me other stuff for free or very cheap. The program wasn't that great and often had restrictions that weren't listed, but it was still nice to get free toilet paper or dish soap or whatever. Twice I even ended up really winning the sweepstakes! The first time I won some exercise equipment like a weight set, mini trampoline, jump rope, kettle bells, an exercise watch, and probably some other things I can't think of. I kept and used some of the things, gave others away, and sold the rest.

The other sweepstakes I won was called the SHC ONLY: FOR THE HOLIDAYS and the prize for that was a $100 in points... except that they never gave me the points and I assume none of the other 4 winners got theirs either. When checking the status of the sweeps it used to say that it was pending as they were contacting the winners, but then it changed to "We didn't get enough completed entries into this Sweepstakes within the time allotted, therefore a winner will not be chosen". The official rules don't mention anything about a minimum number of entries so I call shenanigans! The Shop Your Way ( people said I needed to contact, so I did. Many, many times. But I never received a response and had no other contact information and wouldn't do anything to help. So that was frustrating and disappointing... kind of like the closing of these stores.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Windows Reinstall

The screen back plate for my laptop arrived last Wednesday so I was finally able to get that put back together. I then started preparing to do a fresh Windows reinstall on my main PC because it has been acting up lately. First I had to figure out how to get all of my different development environments set up on my laptop like they were set up on my PC so that after the reinstall I would know how to do it, and in case something went very wrong with my PC I would still have my development environments set up and available. Certain programs had to be installed in a certain order with specific SDK versions and environment variables had to be set and updated at specific points. It was a huge pain but I got it done and documented the entire process so I could replicate it once I finished reinstalling Windows. The Windows reinstall took quite a while with all the backing up and install and updates and reinstalling all my programs, but it went pretty smooth and my PC is up and running again and seems to be working well.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Warming Up?

A little over a week ago it got cold enough to warrant kicking on the heater. Unfortunately, when I tried to do so nothing seemed to happen. I heard the familiar click that occurs when the heater first turns on, but after that there was nothing. I then tried to manually turn the fan on, and that didn't come on either. We had this same problem back in March and had someone come from Service 1 Heating & Air Conditioning come to service it. He said something had overheated which flipped a switch, sort of like a breaker, and that it had to be manually reset. He then swapped it out for an automatic one that wouldn't need to be manually reset if it happened again. He checked that it was working before he left, but then a couple days later when we tried to use it again it wouldn't turn on. I was going to call him back in the morning but by the time morning rolled around the heater was working.

I thought maybe the same thing would happen this time so we waited a couple days to see if the heater would kick in. On the morning of the third day I went up into the attic and did the pilot light reset procedure to see if that would help. The reset procedure didn't seem to help, but while I was up there I noticed the heater was warm which got me to thinking that perhaps it was only the fan, not the heater, that wasn't working right. Even with the heater off I couldn't manually switch on the fan; every time I tried, nothing happened. So I thought maybe the overheating of the heater was due to the fan not blowing air through it. I turned off the heater, and later in the afternoon just before calling Service 1 Heating & Air Conditioning I tried turning on the fan one more time, and this time it worked! I still called because I don't think the guy fixed the actual problem back in March. I got their answering service so I left my name, address, and phone number. As of today I still have not received a call back.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Breakdown: Attack of the Alternator!

Last Friday night Treese drove down to visit me and my parents in Vallejo, but halfway down her battery light came on and a few minutes later her car lost all power and completely shut down. She was able to coast over onto the shoulder and while she was on the phone to our insurance company trying to get a tow truck sent out a CHP officer saw her and pulled over. This was a turn of good luck since he was able to help relay precisely where they were, since they were in the middle of nowhere not near any major city in the dark in the rain. He waited with her until the tow truck showed up, and towed her to a motel in Williams.

A few weeks prior to this her battery light had come on so she took it to O'Reilly and they said there was something wrong with her alternator. We had purchased the alternator from AutoZone only a couple years ago and it had a lifetime warranty so she took it in and they tested both it and the battery and said there was nothing wrong and to bring it back in the next time the battery light came on. Well, the next time was when she was 100 miles from home coming to visit me.

The next morning I drove up to meet her along with my dad. We got the tow truck to come out and the driver wanted to try jumping it first to see what would happen. The car started up and idled for a bit, and there was no strange sights or sounds from the alternator so he thought it might be a bad battery. We drove it to a nearby. She drove it to a nearby Napa Auto Parts while we followed behind. Once there, they tested the alternator and battery, and both read as fine. After a minute idling they re-tested the battery and it was significantly lower than the first reading, which lead him to believe the battery was dead. We also got that battery from AutoZone not too long ago so it was also under warranty. We then drove to an AutoZone that was about 15 minutes away.

Once we got to the AutoZone we explained the situation and the guy came out to test the car. The battery read as pretty low, but other than that they both read fine. After a minute he tested the alternator again and this time it wasn't giving the numbers it should have been. He determined that the alternator was definitely bad, but only intermittently which is apparently very rare. So since we couldn't simply exchange the alternator, we had to buy a new one and then we'd get refunded once we turned in the old one. He called around trying to find someone who could replace it for us but nobody was available. The earliest we could get is a Tuesday appointment in Vallejo, not even in the town we were in or any of the nearby towns. So we tried to make it to Vallejo.

About 20 minutes in all the lights on her dash lit up again so we pulled off on the next off-ramp and called for a tow truck. We had to wait a couple hours since they had to get someone who could tow it 70-80 miles. It wasn't too bad, though, as the weather was nice. When the tow truck showed up and hauled away the car we followed behind until it had to get off and onto the truck scales. We had it towed to my grandparents house since there wasn't a lot of room at my parents house. Then on Tuesday morning we were able to drive it over to Pep Boys and drop it off. When we picked it up later that afternoon they said they also found a nail in one of the tires so patched that as well. Later in the day we both headed back to Redding, with me following behind Treese just in case she had to pull over again, but we made it home with no problems. Let's hope this new alternator lasts longer than the last one.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Under the house

Yesterday I ran a 100 foot ethernet cable under my parents' house, from the room with the router to the room with the main DirecTV box. When the DirecTV installers set everything up they didn't bother with network cables, instead just opting to rely on wi-fi which has not been working out well at all. The box would constantly disconnect from the wi-fi with the only way to get it to reconnect being to press the red reset button on the side of the box, and even when it was connected they had constant problems with on-demand streaming buffering and just flat out stopping. I initially wanted to run the wire through the attic and down into the walls but after I went into the attic it didn't seem to be very feasible. The room with the main DirecTV box was an add-on and doesn't have an attic to speak of, plus the wall it needed to be on was an outside wall which meant even if I could somehow get over to that wall and find a way to drill down into it I'd still have to get through a bunch of insulation. So instead I used the existing hole that was being used by the cable wire and ran it under the house up through the office floor where there used to be another cable wire. I'm pretty sure the cable wire was there before the DirecTV people came so did they cut off the end and push it through the floor? What's the point in that? Like it would never ever be used again at some point in the future?